Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs

Department

Marine Affairs

First Advisor

David Bidwell

Abstract

This research aims to address how to increase support and understanding for coastal and marine policy as well as coastal habitat restoration in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. More specifically, the objective is to determine both the influences of environmental education on public attitudes and how environmental education influences the public's support for habitat restoration and protection policies. From this research one can discern whether environmental education plays a significant role in attitude formation, which can prove to be important for public support of policy. Research was conducted at and near an environmental education facility, the Save the Bay Aquarium in Newport, Rhode Island. Using an in-person questionnaire, three sub-groups (Entering, Exiting, and Non-visitor) were surveyed. The survey was designed to gather data about participant’s environmental worldviews, knowledge of the marine environment, level of policy support, and demographics. Results were analyzed using a step-wise regression to determine the factors that predict levels of policy support. This study shows that in Rhode Island, respondents have a high level of policy support. That support is not directly correlated to visiting the educational facility, but correlates more directly to environmental beliefs and values. Although the data show there is support for policy, they also suggest that there is still opportunity to enhance the public’s support for various environmental policy initiative in Rhode Island. It is hoped that the results of this study will be used by Save the Bay and similar institutions to 1) evaluate existing and future educational programs and 2) facilitate reflection about organizational roles and responsibilities related to influencing the public’s knowledge of and support for environmental policy.

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